Other AAC bowls lack pizzazz


Orlando is in the middle of the landlocked side of a state surrounded by a sea and an ocean, but you could not tell it from the reaction of some of their fans.

They are in the middle of the saltiest part of the state after hearing that they get to play Marshall and Temple gets to play the more “sexy” bowl matchup. Pizzazz is defined as “an attractive combination of vitality and glamour” and, if anything lacks pizzazz,  it is the AAC bowl matchups.

Temple has an interesting matchup. The others fall short.

In fact, an argument can be made that the Owls might have won the AAC post-season if they can beat UNC because even if Memphis is getting the sexiest bowl opponent, Penn State, we all know the chances of interim G5 team head coaches are a lot slimmer than Ed Foley.

Plenty of complaints on the UCF message board that Temple is getting a P5 opponent while UCF–which both finished ahead of Temple in the AAC East and throttled the Owls on the road–gets the Rosey O’Donnell Bowl against Marshall.

To me, it’s more of a result of life in the Group of Five. If you get an NY6 game, you lose your head coach. If you don’t get an NY6 game, you either get a 6-6 P5 team or a team from a lesser conference.

Temple, the AAC turns its lonely eyes to you because I don’t see a chance of the AAC advancing its brand in many of these bowls that the conference should win:


Boca Raton Bowl, Dec. 21 (3:30, ABC) _ SMU, a 10-2 team that played and beat a TCU team (that extended Baylor into overtime), gets to go on the road and play FAU in its home stadium. A Mustangs’ win hardly advances the brand of the conference and SMU, despite being unbeaten at the time, drew only 23,189 fans to a home game against Temple. One trend in SMU’s favor: It gets to play a team with an interim head coach.  Prediction: SMU, 24-17.

Gasparilla Bowl, Dec. 23  (2:30, ESPN)  _ This is the same bowl Temple beat FIU, 28-3, by in a different stadium this time. UCF should draw better at Raymond James Stadium than even the home USF team usually draws but Marshall is a blah opponent that got blown out at home by Cincinnati, 52-14. Prediction: UCF, 34-17.


Cotton Bowl, Dec. 28 (noon, ESPN) _ Hate to say this because I’m an AAC guy, but I think Appalachian State deserved this bowl more than Memphis and probably would have had a much better chance to beat Penn State given the coaching circumstances. No G5 team other than App State has P5 wins like South Carolina and North Carolina. Memphis tried to avoid an Ed Foley-like fate by naming its “interim” head coach the permanent one. Memphis will come of this bowl losing to two Pennsylvania teams and beating everyone else. Prediction: Penn State, 35-14.

Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31 (3:45, ESPN) _ Probably the second-most interesting game to the Temple game as Navy should hold serve as the only ranked team in this matchup (No. 23). Kansas State is pretty good, though, and should keep this one close. Prediction: Navy, 24-20.

Birmingham Bowl, Jan. 2 (3, ESPN) _ No. 21 Cincinnati draws an ACC opponent for the second-straight year, this time in warmer weather. Boston College is an ACC opponent in name only and, despite the fact that Steve Addazio is no longer its coach, Luke Fickell gives Cincy the edge in coaching.

Armed Forces Bowl, Jan. 4 (11:30 a.m., ESPN) _ If the Tulane-Southern Mississippi matchup sounds familiar, it should. It’s a renewal of an old CUSA rivalry called the “Battle for the Bell” and the Green Wave should have enough to win this game comfortably, I’d say, around 31-21.

Wednesday: The Newest Dirty Word



Military: All Hands on Deck Bowl

Screenshot 2019-12-09 at 8.57.34 AM
It’s almost fitting that Temple’s football team is playing next at Navy because, for them at least, the Navy term “all hands on deck” certainly comes to mind in this matchup against North Carolina.

In the Navy, all hands on deck usually is a call for ship hands to come to the deck in times of crisis.

For Temple, this is one of those times.


Last year left a bad taste in the mouths of just about every Temple football fan for a few reasons. One, it was the second time the Owls came in as a favorite over an ACC team and came away with a loss in the bowl game. Two, their best players–Ryquell Armstead on offense and Rock Ya-Sin on defense–decided to sit out the game with an eye on their futures. Three, in both instances their head coaches also decided to sit out the game for basically the same reason.

Nothing was a worse taste than being spanked, 56-27, and the Owls had to live with that taste in their mouths for nine months. They were up, 27-14, at halftime, and a steady diet of Armstead runs in the second half might not have secured the win but certainly would have avoided an embarrassing loss.

Now, all hands are on deck and the fans should be part of that equation, too, since the Owls have always drawn well in bowl games in the DMV area. Ten thousand Temple fans are not out of the question since the Owls drew a little over half of the 26,000 fans to the Wake Forest game in 2016.

The head coach, Rod Carey, isn’t going anywhere due mostly to a wisely negotiated $10 million buyout. One of the first promises Carey secured from senior leader Shaun Bradley was that no seniors would miss the bowl game this season.

That kind of commitment is vital to beating a good team like North Carolina. We’ll get into how good further in Friday’s post but, for now, suffice it to say that this is a much-better 6-6 ACC team than the last two 6-6 ACC teams Temple faced in losses.

The two times Temple was forced to play a bowl with half a hand it lost both games. The last two times Temple played with a full deck it won both.

Beating FIU and Wyoming did little to advance the Temple brand but beating North Carolina will advance the brand nationally so it’s a good sign that everyone in Philadelphia is committed to winning this time.

Friday: A First Look at North Carolina

Divided Loyalties

P.J. has got to put the ball near a receiver’s hands on the final play.

After Temple won the AAC championship, we wrote that the Owls already had the cake and the bowl game would be the Cherry on top of the cake.

There will be no Cherry thanks to a bunch of Baylor defensive coaches who thought they could serve two masters.

Now we have seen three Temple teams win 10 games and there can be no doubt the 1979 team is by far the best team of the three, having finished No. 17 in the nation and being only 15 points away from a 12-0 season against a significantly tougher schedule than the last two 10-win teams. An 11-win Temple team might have an argument, but that point is moot now.

What ailed the Owls the last two years is the distractions of the haves and have-nots in college football’s hierarchy.

G5 schools, specifically AAC schools, have had to deal with these distractions while the P5 schools do not. Temple stumbled to the finish line last year because it had to hear rumors about its coach leaving prior to a league championship game. Houston had no such distractions and won the title. This year, the Owls won the league title largely because head coach Matt Rhule was able to keep any discussions between his agent and Baylor quiet until after the title was secured.

The distractions, though, caught up to the Owls in the 34-26 bowl loss to Wake Forest. The No. 3 defense in the nation should not be allowing 34 points to the second weakest offense in the ACC.

We now know why because the defensive coaches missing eight practices between Dec. 4 and now was a huge red flag. It was obvious that Dave Clawson coached the pants off Temple, specifically in finding the vulnerability in the Owls’ defense to seam passes to the tight ends and the fullback early. A defensive staff out recruiting for Baylor had no answers for that on game day because there was nothing going on in the days leading up to game day.

Coaching means more in football than in any other sport. The team that is better-prepared will beat the team that is lackadaisical in preparations every time. On offense, the Owls have a first-round pick at tackle and they insisted on running the ball to the right side. Since the first-round pick lines up on the left side, the running game was going down the wrong way on a one-way street. As a result, the Owls had a minus 21 rushing yards.

That’s coaching and that is very poor coaching.

The difference between the 1979 team and these last two 10-win teams was that they had no such distractions to close out the season and a masterful coaching staff totally dedicated to helping the Temple kids and not with their minds elsewhere. Twenty six points should have been enough to beat this team.

When the field is tilted one way, nights like last night in Annapolis are going to happen.  It is a shame it is going to cost the school a precious Top 25 finish.

If Geoff Collins can do the kids one favor next year, it will be to allow them to finish the season under a coaching staff that gives them undivided attention and love and let the results fall where they may.

Friday: Season Analysis

Sunday: The Three Things

Finished Business

Brandon does a great job here encapsulating the fan experience in Annapolis. Just look at the amount of Cherry in this video and double it tomorrow.

A little over a year ago, linebacker Tyler Matakevich set the agenda for this season much like a running back named Kenny Harper set it the year prior.

Fighting back the tears, Matakevich said this was not the way he pictured the way his Temple career would end and that his biggest message to the seniors was that they had to do whatever was necessary to ensure that what happened to him did not happen to them. Leave No Doubt was Harper’s plea to Matakevich’s group about an appearance in a bowl game.


Matakevich raised those stakes with the next group, so Unfinished Business was born as the slogan of choice for the 2016 season.

So far, they have taken care of business by returning to the championship game and doing what Matakevich and his teammates were not able to do and that was to win it this time.

Now only one checkmark is left on the “to-do” list and that is win the bowl game tomorrow (3:30, ESPN) against Power 5 member Wake Forest.  The teams have two common foes, with both Wake (21-13) and Temple (28-13) losing at home to Army. The other foe is Tulane, who the Owls beat, 31-0, on the road, and Wake struggled for a 7-3 win at home.


Since the Army result was pretty much the same, the Tulane result probably is one of the main reasons why the Owls are 12-point favorites now. Still, the Demon Deacons (6-6) have done some other things that deserve respect, including beating Syracuse, 28-9, and winning at Duke and Indiana. The Owls do not have much of an opportunity to pick up Power 5 wins, and this is one of them in a conference they feel they are a better fit for than the AAC.

While they appear to be blocked from upward mobility for at least a few years, they want to be able to establish a brand in front of a league audience that does not get to see them play much.

More importantly, they want to complete the most impressive trifecta in Temple football history—a league championship, a school-record 11 wins and a top 25 finish. While the 1979 team that finished No. 17 in the country probably will remain the most high-profile Owls’ team of all-time, this team has an outside chance of also finishing in the top 20.

The question is how much will losing their head coach means psychologically, physically, and game plan wise against a stable coaching staff? The guess here is at least a little but not enough for Wake Forest to overcome a significant talent advantage on both sides of the ball. Plus, there should be enough crazy loud Cherry and White fans to help carry them across the Finished Business line. Matt Rhule deserves credit for permitting Phil Snow to help Ed Foley and the kids close this thing out.

The legacy that this group could set for generations at Temple should be enough to turn last year’s tears into smiles that will last a lifetime.


Wednesday: Game Analysis 

The Clawson Cutoff


Dave Clawson was a very good hire for Wake Forest.

The very entertaining Johnny Carson Show used to have a regular feature back in the day called “Carnac the Magnificent” where it gave the answer to the question first.

On another bit, the Art Fern one, he would give directions to a fake store, he would say, “Go to the Slauson Cutoff.”

Temple’s “Slauson Cutoff” is really a Clawson Cutoff, because the one advantage Wake Forest will have over Temple (3:30, Tuesday) is the continuity of coaching and that begins and ends with Dave Clawson, the head coach of the Demon Deacons.

On paper, that is not a good matchup for the Owls.

Mike Jensen of the Philadelphia Inquirer called for the Owls to hire Clawson over Matt Rhule in 2012 and, while it looks like he was wrong, that’s only to people who think Rhule was the only person in the world who could have steered Temple football in the right direction.


A tweet from Mike Jensen four years ago.

I also think Clawson could have done the same thing and, in reality, he has done a terrific job at Wake Forest. I’m in the minority of Temple fans who think there are a handful of really great coaches out there who Temple  could have hired who would have done the same thing for the school Matt Rhule did.

Maybe better. Certainly better than starting 2-10 and 6-6.

That’s OK, because we will never really know.

All we do know now is that Clawson, really, is the only thing standing between Temple and a school-record 11 wins.

Most objective college football observers know that Temple has significantly better on-field talent than Wake Forest. If you take the coaches away and have the kids play a pickup game, Temple probably wins this one something like 41-13.

Putting the coaches that we know of in there and this becomes a significantly closer game.

All we know about Foley is that he is a good guy who followed a highly successful Clawson Era by going 7-15 at Fordham as a head coach and getting fired. So far, in the lead up to this game, Foley has been saying all of the right things about being a “competitive guy” and concentrating on the game, but we cannot know for sure until the final gun sounds on Tuesday. Clawson, unlike Foley, is a proven head coach.

This is one game where we will find how much coaching impacts a college football game. The formula for a Temple win equals the better kids plus a Foley who learned something a year ago against Toledo is superior to a Clawson who has worse kids but a better head on his shoulders.

That’s the thought here and the hope.

Unfortunately, it won’t be anywhere near 41-13 but a helluva lot closer to 21-13 and that is my call for the Owls because coaching means about 20 points in a college football game. This is not baseball, where a manager only impacts about 10 of 162 games a season.

Football is the most important sport when it comes to coaching.  We will find out how important, oh, about 6:30 on Tuesday.

Monday: Game Preview


Eyes On The Prizes


Right now, no coats will be needed on Tuesday.

After spending what (for me) was a small fortune on a bus trip and ticket to the AAC championship game, I settled back in my seat on Bus No. 3 with visions of watching the Owls hoist the championship trophy only to be greeted by this announcement by the bus trip moderator employed by Temple:

“Right after the game, you must leave for the buses, which will leave 30 minutes from the conclusion of the game.”

Several of us screamed out loud: “WHHAAAAAATTTTT?”

We then pointed out to her that around 30 minutes after the conclusion of the game, the team, after going over to sing the Navy alma mater (a tradition), then their own alma mater and T for Temple U will just be STARTING  the AAC championship ceremony. After never seeing Temple hoist a championship trophy or the Owls even involved in a championship ceremony, we weren’t on the mood to be hearing that noise that from our seats as the bus was leaving.

“I’ll check into that,” she said.

Halfway into the trip, she made the announcement: “I checked with my boss. It looks like no ceremony. The bus will be leaving right after the game. Sorry.”

There were audible groans from the packed bus.


Temple has made plans this time for the victory ceremony

Right then, at least two of us made plans to Uber it home from Annapolis if we had to because we were not missing any alma mater, fight song or lifting trophy craziness. (We didn’t; we got right on the bus as it was pulling out, but we stayed through everything.)

I dutifully filled out my survey upon returning home and mentioned how insane that to go all the way down there and be asked to get on the bus before a once-in-a-lifetime Temple victory ceremony occurs. Fortunately, the powers-that-be have heard. If Temple wins, the busses will leave one hour after the game on Tuesday; if, Heaven forbid, Temple loses, the bus hightails it out of town 30 minutes afterward.

Fair enough.

Let’s all hope for a late departure because lost in Matt Rhule’s exit, Geoff Collins’ entrance and a team practicing without defensive coaches for a week is the fact that there is not one but three very important prizes to be had.

A winning bowl trophy would be one, a top 25 finish would be another and, above all, a legacy prize of being the winningest Temple team in history (11 wins). Who knows if Temple will ever have a chance to win 11 games again? After the Garden State Bowl, I left Giants’ Stadium assuming Temple would win double digits a few times. It did not happen until last year. While three of the four AAC teams have lost, none of them have the trifecta to gain that Temple has and the Owls need to ball out just like they did a couple of weeks ago in Annapolis. The kids deserve it and the fans deserve to see it.

This time, there won’t be just one prize by three really good parting gifts to lay eyes on before the year is over and out. Let’s hope all of us are there to see them.

Saturday: Finished Business

Monday: Game Preview

Wednesday: Game Analysis

Friday: Season Analysis

5 Other AAC Bowl Matchups Worth Watching


Where is the T, M and P?


Just four months ago, the AAC was lumped as just another Group of 5 football conference trying to make its way in a Power 5 world. Then the AAC won some big games, with Temple beating Penn State and Memphis beating Mississippi, finished 4-3 against a P5 conference (the ACC) and separated itself from the pack. Now it can enhance its image by winning these five bowl games.


  1. Miami Beach: USF vs. Western Kentucky

The big storyline in this game (2:30 p.m., EDT, Dec. 21, ESPN), is Willie Taggart’s old recruits, the ones who play for 11-2 WKU, going up against his newer 8-4 South Florida recruits. Despite the game being played in South Florida, the Hilltoppers are slight favorites and a lot of that has to do with the motivation on one side against an less-motivated group on the other. Plus, WKU’s Jeff Brohm probably is a better game day coach than Taggart.


  1. Birmingham: Memphis vs. Auburn

The fact that the 9-3 Memphis Tigers are a slight underdog against the 6-6 Auburn Tigers is a product of this being a home game for Auburn. In reality, Memphis is a team that beat Mississippi by 13 points and should have no problem handling an overvalued Auburn team that has an edge in SEC name recognition and little else. The game is Dec. 30th on ESPN at noon.


  1. Hawaii: Cincinnati vs. San Diego St.

The Bearcats have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Gunner Kiel, who has played significantly better in the second half of the season since coming off a concussion. The 7-5 Bearcats’ most impressive showing was a 33-30 loss at champion Houston. SDSU, which is 10-3, is a slight underdog in this game (Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN).


  1. Military Bowl: Pitt vs. Navy

In what is a home game for 9-2 Navy, played at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, this game serves as a showcase for someone who should have won the Heisman Award, Navy Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds, against a successful Power 5 team in 8-4 Pitt. This is probably too tough a spot for the four-point underdog Panthers.


  1. Peach Bowl: Houston vs. Florida State

The one takeaway from Houston’s 24-13 win over Temple in the title game was two takeaways, an interception and a fumble, which were really the difference between Temple being there and Houston taking the spot. The fact that the Owls had to play a perfect game to beat the Cougars probably bodes well for the touchdown underdog in the Dec. 31 game (noon, ESPN). The AAC can make its ultimate statement winning this game.